29 January 2013

Raining cats and dogs

Not much worth sharing in the personal life so: CATS and DOGS. These essential maps are cribbed from Alligator Sunglasses, which was also the source of the Coachella lineup thing. They won the internet this week.

I love cats and dogs equally. You just have to remember that a dog belongs to you, but you belong to a cat. Also, cats are deadly in a way that you don't see often around the house. At least until they retire. When I volunteered at the animal shelter years ago the scariest animal in the shelter wasn't the dog- or people-aggressive pit bulls (though they were scary), it was the feral cats. True story.

28 January 2013

Can't Wait

I already have a ticket to Coachella. I wasn't planning on going until I saw the lineup.

I heard :( was amazing live. Also heard :) kind of sucks, but it's a festival, so maybe they'll bring their :-) game.

Every Ska Band's Horn Section? Fuck yeah.

25 January 2013

Work got done

Holding the hammer like a n00b - ugh
Finished house - they plan to demo the structure at left
Last weekend we built a house in TJ with friend Blair and some other peeps. Smaller group (8+1 people) this year but with Blair's leadership and the luck of some very good weather we were able to get it done quickly.

The +1 person was the unexpected help of one of the house residents. The guy was a whiz with stucco and did an amazing amount of work during the stucco phase(s). 

I covered Blair's qualities as a project leader in previous posts so you can review that if you're in the mood. This was the Tenth Annual event, though only my 7th year of participation. I was busy some years when the weather was really cold and/or wet. Purely coincidental, I assure you.

The smaller group was surprisingly efficient. If you have a small crew you can't hide or shirk your duties. In other words, everyone has to contribute as much as they are able, regardless of how much or little that may be in terms of total work accomplished. And everyone did. So props to the team for the total commitment.

Coming back through the border line the INS official asked me if I had fun and I said, "No." I wouldn't have been in the mood for a rollicking good time anyway, in light of recent events, and this trip becomes less 'fun' with each passing year. The food was good though. I got a new recipe for arroz con leche that will knock your socks off. And also clog your arteries, which is a big part of why it is so good.

Barring a dramatic change or some other development this was my last build. It was a good one to end on.

See you out there.

19 January 2013

One day at a time

Pups knew how to take it easy
I miss Reese.

18 January 2013


I'm not a religious man (quite the opposite) but smiles are in short supply right now and this made me laugh.

See you out there.

11 January 2013

A Love Story

I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart
This is Reese in her winter getup (sporty jacket and hand-knitted scarf), photographed during the late-afternoon December sunset at Cliff Park in Newport Beach. I took this picture on my cellphone about two weeks ago. It's possible that she is looking at the sun and wondering why it doesn't stick around a bit longer. The sun rises and sets for her, you see. Why should it be otherwise?

We ran and played in the park that day. She was a bit more winded than usual but she had a blast. People love seeing her in the scarf, and she loves people seeing her, so she loves to wear the scarf. 

Talking of love: Reese is the most loved animal I have ever known. She isn't spoiled - she never begs, is wonderfully behaved, is endlessly patient with children, submissive and playful with other dogs. Her only requirements are that you keep her calendar full with activities and also share all the love that she has to give (which is considerable). Best. Companion. Ever.


I met Reese for the first time on July 13, 2011. I had finagled a date with her mom, which would have been news to her mom if she knew it was a date. My idea was for us to take Reese for a walk and then get some dinner. It worked out pretty well for a first date - we went on a lot more dates. I remember that we walked Reese around Lido Island and her mom let her run off the leash near a sign that expressly forbid dogs. Not just dogs off the leash, but all dogs, period. "She can't read, she's only five," Ambra told me, while Reese ran in circles and did awesome things awesomely. Running Reese off the leash made me uncomfortable. I got over it.


If you are lucky in love then you will meet people that will change how you understand the word. You know what it means, but then you find love in such a way that you discover it means something entirely different than you imagined. It's the strangest thing, but it happens.

Ambra was that for me. And for Ambra it was Reese. 


Reese went to the doctor for her first surgery at the end of August, 2012. She had a tumor but we didn't know what kind. She endured a major surgery and healed up very well. The initial diagnosis was a malignant sarcoma, but reports seemed to indicate that the surgery was a success. We worked through the recovery and continued on as before, though we worried. Reese seemed unaffected, which was glorious. 


Initially it was difficult for me to adjust to a relationship with a girl and her dog. I felt like I had to compete with Reese for Ambra's attention, and it took some time to accept that Reese would always be the most important thing in her life. Ambra later denied this is true but I know better. And after a while I could understand why she felt that way. If you knew Reese you would understand.


Reese developed an inflamed lymph node and a tumor on her skin just as she fully healed from her initial surgery. She had to have another invasive surgery to remove the skin tumor and her affected lymph node. The diagnosis was revised to lymphoma or malignant histiocytosis. One is bad. The other is worse.

If we were fortunate we would be able to celebrate her 7th birthday on 9 March, 2013. 


Eventually Ambra made what was probably the biggest step in our relationship: she trusted me to watch Reese when she was traveling on business. This was a heady responsibility (for me) and the source of considerable stress (for all involved, excepting Her Majesty). Reese has a lot of allergies so she was on a special diet, plus she needs a lot of attention. Anyone who fails to meet Reese's needs does so at their peril. They don't call them 'velcro Vizslas' for nothing. While we missed Ambra desperately when she was away, we got to know each other much better. I grew to love her almost as much as I loved her mom. I love them still.

Being the primary caregiver changes how you feel about whomever or whatever you provide care. It might change it for the worse or the better, but it will change you. When Ambra arrived home and Reese was safe and sound (albeit a pound or two heavier than when she left - I was generous with my meal portions) they were both overjoyed.


Reese has malignant histiosytosis. It is a virulent form of cancer. The oncologist, who has far, far too much practice at giving people bad news, broke down during the conversation. You would expect him to be less affected. Correction: you would expect it if you haven't met Reese.


After the second surgery Ambra and I decided that Reese wouldn't spend another moment alone in her life, no matter how long that turned out to be. She went to work with Ambra, or stayed home with me. If one of us was at the gym or grocery, the other was minding Pups. We spent days, nights and weekends doing Reese-y things. Even though she was briefly uncomfortable while she healed, she remained as sweet as ever. After a very short rest period she was back doing all the stuff she likes to do. We went on hikes. We went to the park and the school. We chased birds. We chased the ball. It was glorious.


The cancer didn't respond to treatment; it spread everywhere. 


Reese has ruined me for dogs. I enjoy other dogs and understand why people love them but for me she's all there is. She's a product of years and years of positive energy; her whole life she has known only love. Imagine what it would feel like if everyone around you loved you, all the time. Then imagine that you redirected that love outward to share it with the world. That's what it is to be around Reese. That's why she greets every day with such joy. She can't wait to get up and start spreading the love around. I take it for granted but it really is awesome.

One of my favorite activities is to pick Reese up and dance around and sing to her. It is a fun way for us to celebrate. And we celebrate a lot, because who wouldn't? Sometimes Ambra joins our dances, but mostly it is just us. Puppy loves to dance. If you tried dancing and don't pick her up she will chase you around. This song is a particular favorite.


I had to say goodbye to Reese this morning. The cancer in her lungs made it too difficult for her to breathe.

We took her to the vet and let her go.


There's something else you learn when you discover the true meaning of love: When you love something that much and have to let go of it, you're never the same.


I suck at legos

I always sucked at legos. No imagination.
Maybe I was missing this awesome logo from the aqua raiders? Probably that's what was keeping me from reaching my full potential.

09 January 2013


Please Leave Me Alone

Friend of the Blog sent me these (solicited) pics of her new puppy Lucille. Word is that the puppy is settling in very well, getting along famously with their other dog. The ribbon picture is the cutest thing I've seen in a while so I'm including it here.

The other picture is mainly just piling presents on the dog while it's trying to sleep. I used to do the same thing with Reese and firearms because I thought it was hilarious. Reese's mom, not so much. Meh.


UPDATE: Both these loans are fully funded.
Kiva sent me a notice that all my loans were repaid. I had funded some modest enterprises last year and everybody paid me back. So that's good news.

What's on tap for this year? Well, Stanley needs some money for a venture he's working on:

Stanley is 20 years old and owns a motorbike. He has been in business for two years. He also practices farming where he grows tomatoes for sale. He is very hard-working and responsible. His business is very busy. Faulu Kenya has helped him save his money for the future.

He hopes to be an established businessman and to buy another motorbike. [Ed. Who doesn't want another motorbike?] He requires a loan of 74,013 KES to buy spare parts for his motorbike and to buy a cow.


Stanley appears to be running a part-time taxi service and also uses the bike to get around. I loaned him $100. His loan is now 75% funded so hopefully it will make it the rest of the way and he can buy a cow.

Speaking of cows, I had some money left over after that loan so I opted to also partially fund a loan for Boaz from Kenya

Boaz, 61 years old, is married to Catherine and they have been blessed with four children, aged 22, 20, 17 and 4 years. Boaz has been a dairy farmer for 28 years and his current monthly income is KES 9,000.
Boaz is borrowing a loan of KES 60,000 to purchase more dairy cows. He plans to reinvest the profit in the business. This is Boaz' second loan and he successfully repaid his previous one. His hopes and dreams are to continue with his dairy farming and to educate his children. 


I love dairy products so that was an easy one.
Hopefully it works out.

08 January 2013

Repeat offender!

For more info on the general failure of FIFA, there's this quick read on Grantland. He comes up with an alternative World XI that is not only much more cosmopolitan than the official offering, it's superior. I like that the writer took it a different direction and included Gervinho. Gervinho's primary skill as a footballer is to haunt my nightmares by blowing chances for my favorite team. So that was funny in a sharp-kick-in-the-balls sort of way.

I already posted this video but it was taken down. So here it is again.
Yes it's an injury time goal in a friendly where his team was already up a couple goals, but it's still quite good.

Unrelated:Alabama spanked Notre Dame for the "National Championship" in the NFL's minor leagues. I had read somewhere that Notre Dame led the country in graduation rate. Any time a school leads the country in graduation rate and they're playing an elite SEC school that doesn't give a shit about graduating players you can safely bet SEC team to cover. Athletes will kick the hell out of student-athletes almost every time.

05 January 2013

Happy New January!

That About Sums it Up
How about some reading for the winter month ahead?
Don't feel like a book? Consider an article by William Langewiesche. Or David Grann. You're good either way.

Okay then.

03 January 2013

I think Slate is trolling me

Slate is soliciting feedback and stories based on the premise that it's better to be raised by a single parent. No, really.

This essay is a long paean to confirmation bias; it makes my head hurt and also irritates me. A lot. I was sufficiently moved to write a response and send it in, mostly because the essay from Ms. Gripke was such a steaming pile of bullshit. 

Anyway, the gist of her essay is how awesome she is as a parent, and how awesome she is as a single parent, and how totally awesome it is that her kids get to grow up with a single mom (who is so awesome).

You know what I've never heard a parent in a healthy relationship say? This: "We've got too many damn people around here! This would all be so much easier and better for the kids if there was just one of us. Imagine how much tougher they would be! They would have grit and value hard work and other stuff!"

If you can't raise a kid with two parents it's not because there's too many parents, it's because you're doing it wrong.

Anyway, my response.
I was raised by a single mother from the time I was 5 until adulthood. Moreover, I have a fraternal twin sister that was raised in the same household.
There is no doubt that I learned some hard lessons at a younger age than most of my peers. Custody battles will do that to a kid. So does housing instability caused by money shortages.
Not sure what your metric for success is, but I guess I turned out okay. Not perfect, but I graduated from a UC school, support myself financially, and generally try to be a productive member of society. Also I am able to sustain healthy friendships and healthy romantic relationships.
My sister dropped out of high school 22 years ago, and (so far) has no career and no marketable skills, can barely hold down a job. If you measure success by the metrics I listed for myself, she is an abject failure. Her biggest achievement to date was getting one of her children taken away by the state of Oregon because she is an unfit mother. My mom took the child out of foster care, which is a great joke in my family because she's currently batting .500 but could bring her average to .666 with a late surge.

So why did I turn out more or less normal and why did my sister become a drug-addled grifter? I'm not strictly sure. We had similar social opportunities, the same public education (through 10th grade), same diet, etc. The same single-parent household that gave me 'grit' also created a high-school dropout long-term welfare recipient with multiple dependents. So.

(As an aside: Of course Ms. Gripke thinks that her kids get a 'winning combination' when raised by a single parent. That's not good parenting, that's confirmation bias.)

The determining factor in the success of your children is not how many parents you have. It certainly isn't 'better' to be raised by a single parent. It's better to be raised by parents that teach you to be a good adult, regardless of number.

Put another way: You can create a self-entitled brat with any number of parents and just about any budget. You can create generous, hard-working, successful adults in almost any circumstance, but it is easier if there are two people there to do the heavy lifting.